Law was [Mabini’s] life, his true love, and whenever he appears in our history he is arguing a question of legality.
He urged the surrender at Biak-na-bato but afterwards questioned its legality because “there was bad faith on both sides.” He was for the resumption of the Revolution but questioned the legality of the Declaration in Kawit because he felt that one man, a dictator, could not proclaim a nation’s freedom in the name of its people; only the people themselves could do that; and he did not rest until the Kawit act had been ratified by the representatives of the people in the provinces controlled by the revolutionary armies. He was for constitutional government but questioned the legality of the Malolos Constitution because, in his opinion, the Congress in Malolos was merely a consultative, not a legislative, body. He willingly stepped aside as prime minister to give way to Paterno but questioned the legality of the Paterno cabinet on the ground that its avowed policy – to seek an autonomous government under the Americans – violated the Constitution. He even saw the struggle between Aguinaldo and General Luna as a question of legality: Luna’s aspiration to topple the Paterno cabinet and replace it with one headed by himself was legal – “una aspiracion legal y correcta” – whereas Aguinaldo’s resentment of it endangered the rule of law by undermining military discipline.
Mabini launched into his biggest fight after the Revolution, and again it was a battle over legality. In letter after letter, article after article, he sought to prove that the American occupation of the Philippines was illegal. He built up his case too well; it cost him his life; for he was deported to Guam, where bad food and prison conditions further weakened his already frail health. He died within three months after he was released.
But to the end we see his lawyer’s mind splitting legal hairs…What we have, finally, in the post-Revolution Mabini, is a lawyer endlessly, tirelessly arguing a case. And that is his greatness. For the case he seemed to have lost then, he is winning today.
Nick Joaquin (1917-2004) National Artist for Literature, on the greatness of Apolinario Mabini in his essay: Mabini, the Mystery
Among all the articles written about Mabini, this remains remains my favorite. Uploaded by the Presidential Museum and Library via PCDSPO.